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RECAP: 10 Takeaways From Discussion on Student Cheering Sections


Is it just us, or is fan behavior worse than ever across the US? Due to COVID restrictions over the past 2 years, fans were not allowed to attend games in many states, and it seems that the built-up energy has caused many unfortunate instances of negative fan behavior to come to the surface. 

In this webinar, we took a step back to look at what it takes to ensure you’re creating a positive culture in your organization and to remind fans of the importance of good behavior. This discussion was be led by some of PCA's most elite trainers with experience in High School Sports...


  1. Setting expectations and consequences in place for student sections, parents, and players is crucial to ensure that the environment is positive, welcoming, and portraying schools in a positive light
  2. Keep in mind the acronym REACT (Relationships, Expectations, Accountability, Consistency, Team) and create your own motto for your school if there are more suitable concepts that fit your needs.
  3. Student sections are one of the main representations of the school. Consider what you want other people to know about your school and what you want them to think about your students, parents, coaches, and staff. 
  4. Different schools have different cultures. When opposing teams visit your school or when your fans visit another school, act appropriately based on the culture you want to represent.
  5. Finding the right leaders for your student section is very important. Having the administration select students they feel will lead others in the right behavior can be effective. Then, reward those students who show the appropriate behavior.
  6. If negative behaviors arise at a game, be transparent with students, parents, faculty, and others about the issue. Be direct and intentional about what has happened. 
  7. Express intolerance for negative, inappropriate behaviors and support the student(s) who were affected.
  8. Make sure your school’s cheers are positive and supportive of your own team instead of demeaning and attacking the opposing team and officials. 
  9. Onboard new players and coaches to ensure that everyone is on the same page and a supportive, comfortable environment is created. 
  10. Incorporate team bonding activities among teams from different schools to get to know one another better, allowing athletes to put a face to each other without a helmet or uniform on.

3 Challenges that Leaders Face in this Topic Area

These questions were posed by our moderator and the responses can be found by clicking on each question or the '+' below.

  1. Relationships, Expectations, Accountability, Consistency, Team
    • Can create your own acronym for your own school (e.g., Responsibility, Community, etc.)
  2. Parents can be a bigger problem than students → reward parents for good behavior 
  3. Cultivating communities 
  4. Many students feel that acting in a way will get their school on the map and attention on them 
  5. Jim Perry explained a situation where a school set expectations for fans and parents and put in place consequences for misbehaving (so important for creating a community that is proud)
  6. Set the table correctly → put expectations in place with consequences
  7. What do we want people to know about us? What do we want people to think of us?
    • Treated us well, good experience, respectful
  8. Yellow and red cards for fans 
  9. Find the right kids and know the ones who will lead the others in the right behavior
  1. Find the right kids and know the ones who will lead the others in the right behavior
    • Reward them with recognition  
  2. Culture: The way we do things here
    • When you are at your school, wearing your school’s name, act appropriately and represent your school in a positive way
  3. Some schools practice before events 
    • Student Cheering Section Club
    • Some of the leaders of these clubs are chosen by the administration 
    • Challenge the kids to be creative (what are you trying to achieve by the cheering you are doing?)
  4. Get the head of your school involved 
  5. Team buddies 
    • The fall teams become the core fans for the winter teams and vice versa 
  1. Consequences → athletes not being allowed to participate in games/practices 
    • We do not tolerate any racism 
  2. Be transparent about what happened
    • Athletic departments, coaches, students post on social media 
    • Express intolerance for these racist actions 
    • Support the student(s) who have been harmed 
  3. Direct communication 
  4. Can be challenging when traveling to other schools or having opposing student sections because they have different expectations, cultures, and consequences 
    • The very fine line between what kids see as free speech and what is demeaning to players based on stereotypes created about race 
    • The opposing team section might not see their comments as racist 
  5. “For each athlete and every athlete”
  6. Work to change school’s cheers from negative toward the officials/ opponents to positive support for their team 
  7. Turning these negative incidents into teachable moments
    • Jeaney said at her school they always have welcome signs for the opposing team to create a positive and supportive environment (also shake hands after the game)
    • Team bonding events for athletes → put a face to the players beyond the helmet and uniform 
    • Humanizes the player (defuses student animosity)
  8. Be direct and intentional
    • Be proactive 
  9. Onboarding players and coaches 
    • Talking about uncomfortable topics 
    • Make sure everyone is on the same page 

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